Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Diggin' this German one sheet!
When A Nightmare on Elm Street first debuted in theaters, my older brother went to see it. I remember him telling me it was one of the scariest films he had seen in a long time. I immediately wanted to hit the theater to see it but alas I was young and unable to get someone to get me into an R rated film. I would have to wait until it hit HBO and get a friend of mine (who had cable) to tape it for me before I could experience what, in my opinion, is Wes Craven’s pinnacle film.

Right from the start of the film Craven throws us into a world of shadows, bizarre imagery (what’s up with that goat in the beginning sequence?) and hair raising sounds that can only be found in our wildest nightmares. The dreamscape in which Craven has painted really leaves the door open for just about anything the imagination can come up with. This is why the film works so well. The line between the dream world and real world are entirely skewed and in many instances blend so well together you begin to wonder is this a dream or not?

Not even the tub is safe in Craven's imaginative tale!

The sequence in which Nancy encounters her dead friend Tina outside her English class doorway is especially well filmed. As a fellow classmate is reading an excerpt from Shakespeare, Nancy falls asleep and the dream begins. Tina calls her name and is seen standing in the doorway, still in the blood splattered plastic body bag. A nice touch is hearing the other classmate’s voice descend into a very slow deep guttural tone while reading the passage and mentioning “bad dreams”. I still need to find out if that was actually from Shakespeare or not. (I’m sure someone can tell me!) Nancy follows the blood trail down the hall and runs into the hall monitor who is wearing a sweater identical to Freddy Krueger’s, the films villain.
The icon......Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund)

Krueger (Robert Englund), as fans know, is a child killer who was lynched by parents in the town many years ago and burned alive in the old boiler room of the factory he was employed. Years later Krueger returns in the dreams of the children of those parents and begins to murder them in their nightmares, a revenge aspect of the story that is finally revealed in the last reel of the film. Craven came up with a great “gimmick” for Freddy, the glove fitted with finger knives. The glove alone is now iconic to horror fans and casual movie fans alike.

A Nightmare on Elm Street was made a little less than $2 million, a budget it supposedly made back in its first week run in U.S. theaters. It was proof that a low budget, independent film could entertain with the best Hollywood blockbusters at the time. Craven knew he had a hit and that eventually would lead to eight more Nightmare films (I’m counting the Freddy Vs. Jason crossover and the remake of 2010) and place Craven in the forefront of horror directors even though he only directed two other Nightmare sequels (Part 3: Dream Warriors and New Nightmare respectively). Craven was already well known in the horror genre for his gritty early efforts and cult classics such as Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). The success of Nightmare seemed to restart his directing career and Craven directed two television movies and three theatrical films, which included The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) in the span of two years!

So to you Mr. Craven, I tip my ratty, moldy and blood spattered hat. Thank you for giving us horror fans a nightmare we never want to wake up from!